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Monday, April 15, 2024 — Houston, TX

UTSA’s Hallmark, a longtime Owl, talks return to Reckling

Photo courtesy Rice Athletics

By Daniel Schrager     3/28/23 9:48pm

Patrick Hallmark has walked out of the Reckling Park dugout some 250 times, but the last nine have been from the visitor’s side. Hallmark, who played for Rice before returning to coach the Owls, served as an assistant under former head coach Wayne Graham from 2006 through 2016. Now the head coach of the University of Texas at San Antonio, Hallmark said returning to Rice feels different.

“The first time it was different, getting back here,” Hallmark said. “I grew up in Southwest Houston too, so I’ve been in and around Rice, even before I went to Rice, because it was so close to me when I grew up, and you know, my dad would take me over here to watch games. And so it was just different.”

Hallmark spent just a year at Rice as a player and student, after transferring from Alvin Community College in 1995. But that one year left a mark on his life. Hallmark not only earned all Southwest Conference honors, but was selected in the 18th round of the MLB draft and met his wife in class.

“The ‘95 season was Rice’s first postseason regional [appearance],”  Hallmark said. “They went 20-some years in a row after that year. So it was cool to be part of that. We’re kind of where it all started with some terrific players. A lot of Houston area players too, which was fun, in retrospect.”

One of his teammates in ‘95 was Rice head coach Jose Cruz Jr., who Hallmark said he had played against since he was a kid.

“Leading up to [this series], there’s a little bit of anticipation because of the history,” Hallmark said. “Him and I were childhood friends, we played against each other and with each other from literally eight years old, all the way until our careers ended in professional baseball.”

After nine seasons in the minors, and a stint coaching high school, Hallmark returned to Rice as an assistant coach. Hallmark held several jobs for the Owls before settling into the role of pitching coach, despite his background as a catcher. Hallmark said that coaching under Graham was always demanding.

“It was a challenge,” Hallmark said. “I mean, you had to do a good job. You know, the expectations were high. And if you didn’t do your job, well, you heard about it.”

When Graham, who referred to Hallmark as the “obvious” choice to succeed him, retired in 2018, Hallmark got an interview. But the then-University of Incarnate Word head coach never heard back from his alma mater. Today, coming off of a 38-20 season that saw the Roadrunners fall one run short of the conference title, Hallmark has his team at 20-5, receiving votes for the USA Today top-25 and said he isn’t looking back.

“Anytime you talk about your alma mater, people are going to put your name out there, right?” Hallmark said. “But it didn’t happen. I’m blessed and happy where I am. And I don’t look back at all.”

In his third trip back to South Main since that decision, Hallmark said that  as much as he’s loved his time in San Antonio, Houston still feels like his home.

“It still feels like home,” Hallmark said. “The traffic, the humidity, feels like home. My wife and I and my kids, we love San Antonio and it’s our new home. But anytime I come to Houston … there’s some nostalgia and good feelings.”

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